Sachin Tendulkar became the first-ever cricketer to be adjudged run out by a third umpire. It was a game-changing moment in cricket as it was the first time that technology played a significant role in dismissing a cricketer (rather God of cricket!). It was November 14, 1992, and the third umpire was Karl Liebenberg who made the decision. Cut to 2021- just a few days back when Moeen Ali came on to bowl the 10th over of the IPL league match between CSK and MI, the commentator made a prediction of a wicket and Quinton de Kock got out on the 4th ball of the over. Was it match fixing? No, it was a prediction based on the data available with the help of technology.
From third umpire to LED stumps and bails, the game of cricket has come a long way in terms of technological advancements. Here are the top 11 technologies which have made the game more competitive and entertaining…
1. LED Stumps and Bails: The zing bails and flashing stumps grabbed plenty of attention when they were introduced during the 2012 Big Bash League. The semi-finals and final of the 2014 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup marked its first use at an ICC event. When the bails are dislodged the lights start to flash. The lights can be clearly seen and so there will be no doubt about when the bails have been dislodged
2. Hawkeye: It was first used in 2001 by Channel 4 during a Test match between England and Pakistan at Lord’s, primarily to track the trajectory of balls in flight. The path of the ball is tracked by six cameras that are positioned around the stadium. The footage from these cameras are then triangulated and used to create a 3D image. The technology helps the umpire by projecting where the ball pitched, location of impact with the batsmen’s leg and projected path of the ball past batsman.
3. Radar Gun: Aka Speed Gun is used to measure bowling speed in cricket, which is similar to measuring the speed of a moving car. A radar gun is used which has both a receiver and a transmitter. A radio wave is reflected from the moving object which in this case is a cricket ball. This wave is detected by the gun which uses the principle of Doppler Shift to measure the speed of the ball.
4. SpiderCam: This floating camera, suspended above the field with a winch-and-cable system, can move horizontally, zooming in close to a batsman to capture his anguish in the moment of dismissal, or be winched up high vertically for a bird’s eye view of the entire match. The technology helps umpires look at the gameplay from various angles so that they can be sure they are making the correct decision, especially in case of a run out. It is also used in a number of other sports.
5. Snickometer: Often, there is a confusion whether the ball has made a contact with the bat or the gear of a batsman. By graphically analysing the audio and video during a cricket game, the Snickometer identifies whether there has been a snick. A snick is a fine noise when the leather ball comes in contact with the bat. This is reflected in the soundwaves of the recorded audio.
6. Hot Spot: The Snicko was not considered as accurate enough, hence the Hot Spot was introduced in Cricket. It is an infra-red imaging system used to determine where the ball has struck before going to the fielder. The infra-red image shows a bright spot where contact friction from the ball has elevated the local temperature. The technology uses two cameras positioned on the either end of the ground and measures heat friction generated by a collision, such as ball on pad, ball on bat, ball on glove or anywhere else.
7. Super Sopper: If there has been a lot of rain before the match is due to start then the match may need to be postponed or even cancelled altogether. The Super Sopper is a machine that helps to extract water from the ground meaning that it will dry quicker. Depending on the amount of rainfall that has taken place, this machine can be used to make sure that the ground is dry enough to play on.
8. PitchVision: The technology has been widely used in the Cricket training system. PitchVision’s PV/One is a video-and-sensor-based technology that helps cricket coaches judge how well bowlers and batters are performing in the nets, and helps them produce better cricketers.
9. Stump Camera: The Stump cameras have proved to be a useful medium in judging dismissals for stumping, run-outs as well as close catching positions. They provide a unique angle and perspective to the viewers for replays and analysis.
10. Decision Review System (DRS): As the name suggests, the DRS technology is used in cricket to assist the match officials with their decision-making. The main elements that have been used are television replays, technology that tracks the path of the ball and predicts what it would have done, microphones to detect small sounds made as the ball hits bat or pad, and infra-red imaging to detect temperature changes as the ball hits the bat or pad.
11. Power Bats: On October 2018, Anil Kumble became the Ambassador for Microsoft’s Spektacom, an IoT-based sensor sticker, the size of the card, that measures the quality of a player’s shot by capturing data and analyzing the impact characteristics through wireless sensor technology and cloud analytics. The sticker is located at the rear blade of the bat, beneath a regular sponsor sticker. The data from the power bats are analyzed using a powerful AI-model, developed by Azure and transferred to the Microsoft edge for continuous feedback to the player.
Wrapping up: You have to ‘Tech’ it and move forward
The debate regarding whether to use technology in sports or the extent to which it needs to be used will continue. The key reason for people opposing the use of technology (in any field) is the fear of job losses. What we need to consider is- have these technological advancements replaced the umpires completely? Not yet. Have they reduced the margin of error in umpiring decisions? Certainly. These technological advancements have changed the way the game has been played, how umpires officiate, and how players approach their roles. In this digital era, the technology plays a key role across all industry verticals. If we want to progress, we have to ‘tech’ it and move forward!